Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 65 — thinking about Newtown

As I said on Facebook: part of my regular round through the late 80s, 90s, and first decade of this century. I was introducing this marvellous video:

And a few days before I had thoroughly enjoyed this one:

Looking back through my blogs I find many a reference in the various archives.

2006

Welcome to the Newtown Precinct

07 MAR

Link.

I now have a strange machine called a holter taped to me; it will record all my heart gets up to for the next 24 hours until I go back to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital to get it removed. Just outside the hospital I ran into, and spoke to, Professor Brian McCaughan, still very recognisable, who was a member of the Class of 1968 at Cronulla High, my first teaching post. I have of course heard of him, but have not seen him since 1968. That was nice. Kind of ironic though, given he is a member of the Australasian Society of Cardiac and Thoracic Surgeons, among other distinctions. Some of the most brilliant people I ever taught were at Cronulla High, but then the opposite was also true…

I started the day at Erskineville, dropping in on the ESL teachers’ Information Network meeting. Then up to Newtown where I bought a couple of books, had lunch, and a beer at the Newtown Hotel. King Street beats Oxford Street these days, no risk. There is just no comparison. King Street is a far more interesting place.

2008

Well now, that’s my Mardi Gras event for this year

28 FEB

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After coaching tonight I caught the slow bus from Chinatown to arrive on a cold and wet Sydney night at Newtown’s rather wonderful Courthouse Hotel for the blogger meetup. That’s not our group in the picture on the right. I was late, so I missed Marcellous.

Even before I had settled into the group for an hour I met of all people someone I had taught English with at Dapto back in 1970, one of the Spender sisters, Dale and Lynn, the former a rather well-known feminist writer, the other no slouch either. It was Lynn I saw, though initially I thought it was Dale. We both contemplated the years that had flown since then with some amazement, though I have to say I am a minnow compared with what those two have done with that time. (See also When I was a twenty-something conservative in transition…)

Back to the blogger meet: it was great to put a face to Panther at last. James O’Brien I knew instantly, though I had never met him before, and I discovered why The Other Andrew is so called.

Someone whose travels eclipse M’s trips in duration, if not quite in exotic destinations but he comes very close, is this person:

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I’m an Aussie who has just spent 2 1/2yrs roaming around Europe with my dog, a very large Alaskan Malamute by the name of Bondi. Our adventure began in May 2005. So far we’ve travelled around much of UK, including a week-long walk across Scotland; spent 2 months each in Spain & Paris, plus a 5 week circuit of Ireland; done a load of family-tree research; a coast-to-coast crossing of England on foot along Hadrian’s Wall path, and a side-trip to dive wrecks in the northern part of the Red Sea. Most recently we completed a 20,000km 20-country tour of Europe by car, and 3 months in Scotland.

I also discovered what the wonderful header on Dancing About Architecture is all about.

Check here to learn more about what this meet was and who was there. I imagine a relevant post might appear before long too. Topics as various as knitting, historical reenactments, and Number 96 — that site was especially referred to — were being talked about as I, noticing that it was getting dark out, decided I had to set off home, which I did via an excellent Chinese noodle shop in King Street.

Newtown at night is, I have to say, far more interesting and far more pleasant these days than Oxford Street.

2010

In Newtown – same building, different feeling

Posted on  by Neil

Wonderful what playing with lighting does.

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2011

2011 retrospective–2—February

Posted on  by Neil

I ended February in the cardiac ward at Wollongong Hospital. A neighbour of mine who was helpful at that time was Paul the Poet, himself no stranger to the hospital as he was on renal dialysis there three times a week. Paul passed away on Saturday night. Rest in Peace.

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“This guy Paul used to sit outside the 7eleven store on King Street in Newtown and for a very small consideration he would recite a little poem…. I just thought he was wonderful…. he was quite ill at the time and on some kind of benefit which really wasn’t enough to live on so when he felt up to it he would get out on the street and earn a few more dollars…. so much better than begging although it was still kind of heartbreaking that he had to do it… and yet his poems where really fabulous and it always brightened up my day to see him about….” – Juilee Pryor

So he ended his days living here at The Bates Motel.

2013

On Facebook I shared a story from the South Sydney Herald.

Coby Smith-Carr (second from left) with fellow Corroboree Sydney dancers Photo: Supplied

Smith-Carr, who was featured in the March issue of the SSH, has been chosen to dance as part of the performances for Corroboree Sydney in November. A new national festival, Corroboree Sydney is for all Australians to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, and according to Sydney Opera House Chief Director Louise Herron is set to be “the largest Indigenous arts and culture festival in Australia’s history”.

Since the SSH last talked to Coby, who has achieved many sporting awards in water polo, swimming and dancing, she has been busy performing with the NSW Aboriginal Dance Company. Being one of only eight students to be selected from a number of Sydney high schools, Coby had the opportunity to learn inside tips on dance technique, performance and production from Bangarra Dance Theatre and Nederlands Dans Theater during a week-long work experience program.

She now works at Sydney Unversity’s Gadigal Centre.

Coby is a proud Aboriginal woman with ties to Wiradjuri Country from her family in Wellington, New South Wales. She joins the Gadigal Centre, having previously held a role within the Indigenous Recruitment Team within Sydney Future Students. Coby believes education is important for everyone, especially our Indigenous people in order to close the gap and make a difference. Students can go to Coby with any questions and support they may need, or just to catch up and have a chat.

2021

On Facebook in July I recalled this person and place:

Looking back beyond the last five minutes, I recall many a conversation in Newtown in the 1990s with the wonderful Bob Gould, whose amazing bookshop was something of a Mecca — so long as you got over your fear of towers of books falling on you. How he ever knew where anything was I’ll never know, but he always did. I was searching out material in those pre-Google days for my book “From Yellow Earth to Eucalypt” (Longman 1995) and knew that not only was Bob’s shop a likely place to find things but that Bob himself was a living treasure on the history of Marxism(s) and the Chinese variety in particular.

Back in the day, as he says himself, he was heavily involved in the Chinese faction of Australian communism: “Just recently, under the Freedom of Information Act 30 year access rule, I squeezed my ASIO file out of the government, and was rather amused to be reminded of the fact that in the early 1960s I was a member of the Australia-China Society and participated on the side of the pro-Chinese grouping in a very intense faction fight with the pro-Russian Stalinists who were trying to hang on to control of the society after the Sino-Soviet split…. I’ll never forget until the day I die, sometime in the heady year of 1968, that enormous Falstaff of popular Australian Maoism, Albert Langer from Melbourne, sleeping on the floor of my house during some conference or other in Sydney, playing The east is red interminably on our record player, and being jumped on playfully by my seven-year old daughter.”

That is from a remarkable wide-ranging essay “Over the hills lies China” which Bob wrote in 1999. It is still very relevant as background to where we are today. Bob reviews a number of books in the essay, including the very popular (at the time) and quite dreadful “Among the Barbarians” by Paul Sheehan. He also (as he did in our conversations) commends Simon Leys/Paul Ryckmans, a critic of Maoism who punctured many an illusion about Chinese Communism, but from a great knowledge and love of Chinese history and culture. “While revelations since 1976 have shown a lot of this to be rather eccentric and sad illusion, and the more critical stance of such China scholars as Simon Leys has been proved much more correct a view of the devastating, cruel and counterproductive effect of the Cultural Revolution, nevertheless, this widespread Western enthusiasm for China and Maoism contributed substantially to a decline in the fear of China and hostility to the Chinese.”

And a bonus ABC documentary from 1995

A 25 minute documentary focusing on the characters that inhabit King Street in Newtown, Sydney – aired on ABC TV 9.2.95. I was around at the time…

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 50 — more playing with photos

But first:

Second Astrazeneca shot!

And just as well. The latest place to be shut down and deep-cleaned because the virus had visited here in The Gong — and I speak of just yesterday! — is the Catholic School just over the road from where I sit right now in West Wollongong.

Now for some more of my “tinted” photos first posted to Facebook in the last month or so. In each where possible I include some of what I said on Facebook.

Cronulla 1927 — gently tinted.
North Cronulla 1965 — there is a very good chance I was there! I would say this is December-January 1965-6. I was about to start teaching at Cronulla High! So much detail and (before I reached the photo) possibly excess sharpening have defied the colourising thingie — but it is still worth posting. The result is almost solarised.
Touch of colour on Cronulla 1962. From the original photo by Bob Weeks shared on the Historic Cronulla and Sutherland Shire public group.
Anzac March 1938 — had to try tinting it. And a little over a year later….

Teachers!

A few things have popped up lately, mainly on Facebook.

First I was sent to YouTube to watch an episode of an Australian current affairs show I rarely watch these days, for reasons that will come out in my Facebook comment on it. But first, here is the show:

I wrote a mini-essay of a comment on Facebook:

Teachers are wonderful!

This one is anyway and eclipses most of the political and bureaucratic crap and (even worse) the shit that appears in anything Murdoch. I am far too old, a retired campaigner these days, but heartened that people like this teacher exist.

And I am sure a legion more….

Heads up to so many I have known directly or through FB, and this is just a sample: Ernie Tucker, Maximos Russell Darnley, Tess Kenway, Rowan Cahill, Darcy Moore, Steve Storey …. I could go on….

A shame about the idiot from The Australian, Greg Sheridan, who trots out combined ignorance and ideological prejudice, but he is thoroughly and politely put down for the fool he is. I have coached in the kind of place Greg Sheridan describes — a Korean one — and my experience very often was the majority of the parents who sent their kids were wasting their money. The Chinatown one I worked in for a number of years that was strictly on a one-on-one basis, and not so much about profit, was an entirely different matter.

That decrepit old bastard from The Oz is the only waste of space in this episode of The Drum.

The ABC alas too often bends over double backwards with pike to placate the spurious claims of “left bias”. This is sadly one reason I rarely watch The Drum, though there are good moments, as in this one.

I see the ABC as having a commendable bias towards intelligence.Adrian Piccoli, though a one-time LNP NSW Education Minister, and a good one, really does understand. Well worth having on this segment.

Some of the teachers I named commented afterwards, and in response to Greg Sheridan I referred to a post I wrote while I was still an ESL teacher at Sydney Boys High: Thoughts on coaching.

There is nothing surprising about parents seeking to have their children coached. Many of the SBHS parents come from cultural backgrounds where such help is the norm, even if (as we see in the hagwon story below) it may be argued that this is over-the-top. China’s determination to reduce the burden on students and to seek a broader view of education (see below) is interesting too.

Xiao Wu (Year 12 2001), a very successful HSC student, now counsels parents and students to realise that the pressure to get into a selective school ought not to be so strong; it is not like China where getting into the right school is the only way to ensure a first-rate career or choice of university. (It should be added that coaching is not so common in China as it is in Korea or Japan.) Xiao also sees the importance of participating fully in any cocurricular activities the school offers, citing the burn-out factor as being a significant reason for being somewhat less academically single-minded. In his case he had little choice, but does have regrets that he could not participate as much as he would have liked.

One can understand parents seeking coaching when the system confronts them with high stakes tests such as the Selective Schools Entrance Test–especially when parents feel they cannot help their children themselves in this new environment. Their feeling–not entirely wrong–is that their sons and daughters are starting behind the line compared to native speakers. To try to correct that by whatever means is not in itself reprehensible. However, the ethics and activities of some coaching colleges are quite clearly reprehensible.

The argument that coached students are hot-house specimens does, however, deserve rebuttal. If it were so, they would wilt once the initial purpose of coaching had been achieved. Actually being in a competitive selective school environment would show their weakness. It is fair to say that in the majority of cases this is simply not apparent. The students in general thrive, and were probably deserving of entry anyway. Nor are all coached students nonparticipants in cocurricular activities; if that were so the situation at Sydney Boys High in music, debating and sports would be far worse than some fear it is. Indeed, to judge from the 2006 edition of The Record (which did come out on time this year!) all the above are very healthy indeed, even if participation rather than absolute success characterises a few sports.

Clearly I would have posted, and indeed did post, quite a lot related to teaching on my blogs — search “teaching” or check the categories “education” and “schools” in the sidebar.

Two such posts: I return to teaching — 1985 and Reflections on one ex-student, but also on the issues of partisan politics and stereotyping.

The first suggests that I left at one stage — and indeed there have been breaks in my career. In a statement I just made recently on Facebook I wrote:

Being a good teacher is not just about qualifications and measurable outcomes. It is about humanity and empathy — and fallibility. It is in fact a relationship. It can be a glorious job, but it can also bring pain at times. Sometimes we win, sometimes we make mistakes, sometimes we burn out. I have done all three in my time.

1985 marked my recovery from one such period of burnout, in the early stages of which I spent much time contemplating the grass in Glebe Point’s Jubilee Park, and also had my first sessions of therapy… However, that time also saw the editing of the magazine Neos: Young Writers and a productive job at Harkers Bookshop in Glebe. From Term 3 1985 I was back in the saddle at Sydney High where the young ScoMo was a Prefect! I was getting to know the people who became the wonderful Class of 1986, quite a few of whom I am still in touch with. That entry on returning to teaching tells of them.

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From the Class of 1986

My first teaching appointment was Cronulla High School — 1966 (practice session in 1965) to 1969. I have been back, particularly in 2011 when the school had its 50th birthday. See these posts.

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2011 — back to Cronulla

Just the other day on Facebook this class photo appeared. Bundeena is to the south of Cronulla, just across Port Hacking. Students from Bundeena Public School normally went to Cronulla High.

Colourised by me. It’s a composite class, so the 4E5 referred to would have been 1968 or 1969. Back row second from the left seems to be wearing a Sydney Boys High tie. Interesting.

I suggested there was every chance I taught some of them at Cronulla High, and then came one of those magic teacher moments:

Does my ageing bones good to get a comment like this from the person who posted this school photo from more than 50 years ago: “Neil, you taught me English for my School Certificate I think it was 4E5, we had a great year & you were so good to us, thanks, I am bottom row extreme left.”

And here is the young teacher he remembers — a student took this in 1968 or 1969:

How good is that! Yes, I remember 4E5 — they were for a young teacher a touch difficult at times, being shall we say very different to what I had been used to as a student myself at Sydney High, or of course at Sydney University. But it really is heartwarming to have been so remembered by one of them at least after all these years!

I was learning about teaching in a real-world way from them at the time…. And here is another post for you to look at.

Random images for an April morning

Cronulla! Part of The Shire where I passed by first quarter-century. Last visited it myself in 2011 on the occasion of Cronulla High School’s 50th anniversary.

And on my last visit:

This is closer to the way I remember Cronulla, one of Ross Myers’ great videos:

But The Gong ain’t so bad either! Been back for over ten years now…. After six months I posted this on YouTube: “Six months I’ve been in The Gong! This show has pics from the first three. And my favourite Chinese music.”

You guessed it: The Butterfly Lovers Concerto for violin played by Yu Lina — from Michael Xu’s cassette in fact!

Remembering the Cronulla Sand Dunes…

Prompted by this amazing photo posted on Facebook by Helen Grant:

1935 Clarry Jeavens helping his wife climb the sand hills at Kurnell.

By way of contrast here from a set published in the St George and Sutherland Shire Leader is 2005 — photo by Robert Pearce.

Sand mining.

See Wikipedia on Cronulla Sand Dunes — a sad story.

The original inhabitants on the Kurnell Peninsula were the Gweagal people, a clan of the Tharawal (or Dharawal) tribe who occupied the region for thousands of years. Their tribe spanned the areas between the Cooks and Georges Rivers from the shores of Botany Bay and westwards towards Liverpool. According to a Gweagal elder, “Dharawal is similar to a state and Gweagal is similar to a shire within the state, Cunnel (Kurnell) is a family village within the shire”. A clan consisted of approximately 20 to 50 people who lived in their own territory. They had no written language and each tribe had its own dialect. They knew how to light fires long before the arrival of white man. Their clothing consisted of a woven hair sash in which they used to carry tools and weapons and sometimes the optional possum-skin coat for the winter season. The Gweagal were the northernmost people of the Dharawal nation. They fished from canoes or from the shore using barbed spears and fishing lines with hooks in and around Botany Bay and the Georges River. Waterfowl could be caught in the swamplands (Towra Point), and the variety of soils would have supported a variety of edible and medicinal plants. Birds and their eggs, possums, wallabies and goannas were also a part of their staple diet, in which they made fur coats and ceremonial attire. The abundance of fish and other foodstuffs in these heavily timbered waterways meant that these natives were less nomadic than those of Outback Australia. The various middens, rock carvings and paintings in the area confirm this.

Famously the WW2 movie about WW1, The 40,000 Horsemen, was filmed here.

So were some key scenes in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985).

And of course the original video for Men at Work, A Land Down Under:

Several times in the 1950s and 1960s I hiked in the sand hills. It was an amazing place. Once you descended into the valley behind the first dunes, the sound of the surf vanished completely.

Bloody sand-mining….